Research Laboratory of Electronics
MIT Synthetic Biology Center
MIT Department of Biological Engineering
MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
xponential improvements in semiconductor technology have catalyzed amazing advancements in electronics over the past several decades and revolutionized modern life. Similar to Moore’s Law, exponential improvements in our ability to sequence and synthesize DNA are underway which promise to transform our ability to leverage biology for a wide range of applications. Synthetic biology is an emerging engineering discipline that aims to leverage this ever-improving ability to read and write DNA in order to introduce novel functionalities into living systems, such as computation, sense-and-respond systems, and the ability to synthesize living materials.
I will discuss our recent efforts to engineer living bacteria, yeast, and human cells with genetic parts, devices, and circuits in order to compute and record information using digital and analog paradigms. Furthermore, I will describe how the tools of synthetic biology can be used to generate next-generation microbial diagnostics. For example, we have engineered synthetic bacteriophages that enable rapid, sensitive, and specific detection of microbial pathogens. Finally, I will discuss how living cells can be used to create living materials by organizing self-assembling materials (such as proteins and gold nanoparticles) across multiple length scales, nucleating the formation of inorganic materials such as quantum dots, building conductive biofilms, and implementing ultra-strong underwater adhesives.